Press Release Jun 9, 2016

New Report Shows Smart-from-the-Start Oil and Gas Plans Work for National Parks

Parks group’s report, interactive map highlight advantages of Master Leasing Plans

WASHINGTON – Master Leasing Plans (MLPs) are critical to protecting national parks from the impacts of nearby energy development, according to a new report and interactive map released today by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The report and map comes as the Colorado Southwest Resource Advisory Council prepares to meet on June 10 to consider conducting an MLP near Mesa Verde.

Developed and employed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), MLPs can help ensure national parks, sacred and sensitive cultural sites and local gateway community economies are not harmed by incompatible oil and gas development that potentially harms park air and water quality, mars scenic vistas, disrupts the movement of wildlife, and creates other negative impacts.

A Responsible Process - 2016 edition, the new edition of NPCA’s 2014 report of the same name, spotlights national parks that are already benefitting from the MLP process, and features others where MLPs are needed. The report noted that seven MLPs have already been completed by BLM as of March 2016, mostly in Colorado and Wyoming, protecting more than 1.4 million across of land and that the impacts of those MLPs have been beneficial for parks and the economics of surrounding communities.

The White River MLP, completed in 2015, involved Colorado land adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument and added park-protective stipulations to more than 150,000 acres of federal minerals nearby, helping minimize the impact on the monument’s scenery, night skies, and soundscapes that draw visitors from around the world. The MLP, reached through interagency decision-making and community engagement, has been well-received by the conservation community and not challenged by the energy industry.

In Utah, the Moab MLP, which concerns lands between Arches and Canyonlands national parks and is expected to be finalized this fall, proposes closing 145,000 acres to development on park boundaries, and adding strong protections to 300,000 more acres.

“Protecting Sensitive Resources Near Mesa Verde National Park,” the accompanying interactive map created in partnership with oil and gas data organization FracTracker, reveals the variety of important resources found in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed MLP area bordering Mesa Verde National Park, Yucca House National Monument, and other protected sites in Southwest Colorado.

“Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, Capitol Reef National Park in Utah and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado are just some of the Southwest’s treasures that would benefit from a MLP,” said Nicholas Lund, Senior Manager for Conservation Programs at NPCA. “Deliberate, thoughtful planning processes like MLPs are critical to protecting national parks and other important landscapes from the impacts of energy development. The NPCA/FracTracker map identifies important resources, including national park viewsheds, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat that fall within the proposed Tres Rios MLP area near Mesa Verde National Park and demonstrates why advanced planning is necessary.”

This innovative planning process seeks to avoid potential conflicts before drilling is permitted by identifying areas of high ecological, recreational, or cultural value.

The process brings key stakeholders together — including federal land managers, industry representatives, local business and elected officials, as well as conservation and outdoor recreation interests — to seek consensus on where drilling should or should not be allowed.

The NPCA/FracTracker map also includes photographs of the proposed MLP area around Mesa Verde National Park taken by more than 20 local volunteers during a May 2016 mapping event hosted by NPCA, FracTracker, and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

“The interactive map illustrates the need for landscape-level planning around Mesa Verde and other protected sites in Southwest Colorado,” said Vanessa Mazal, NPCA’s Colorado Program Manager. “We hope the results of this unique mapping tool will inspire the Colorado Southwest Resource Advisory Council to vote in favor of conducting an MLP near Mesa Verde.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.